Sugarcane is an important crop worldwide due to its many nutritional and economic uses. Small-scale sugarcane growers (SSGs) are a significant sector of sugarcane production in South Africa. However, the number of SSGs is noted to have declined from as early as the 2000s to the present time. As a result of the declining sugarcane production, there are now generally fewer SSGs. However, it is not clear cut as to what caused the decrease in sugarcane production by SSGs. The primary objective of this paper is to determine the factors affecting the sugarcane production by SSGs in Mona and Sonkombo in Ndwedwe Local Municipality. Data collection was through a well-structured questionnaire administered to 100 SSGs (that is, 50 respondents each from the study sites, namely Mona and Sonkombo) that were randomly selected. The paper employs descriptive statistics to describe farm characteristics, and a production function (Cobb–Douglass production function (CDPF)) analysis using the ordinary least squares (OLS) criterion to estimate the parameters affecting sugarcane production. Results show that late harvesting (by up to three (3) weeks), late fertiliser application (by up to six (6) months, and chemicals (Gramoxone) application (by up to five (5) months) were primary challenges facing SSGs, likely to result in declining sugarcane yield. The CDPF regression analysis reveals that significant predictors of the production function are: labour and the amount of chemicals (Gramoxone) applied. Labour (man-days/ha), amount of chemicals (Gramoxone) applied are found to be statistically significant and positively correlated with sugarcane production. The government, through the relevant Department of Agriculture, including the private sector, should intensify out-grower technical services for SSGs to realise higher production per hectare. Such services would ensure optimal allocation and application of inputs, labour and chemicals (herbicides and pesticides), respectively, at the right time to ensure efficacy. There is also a need to introduce buying consortiums for SSGs to reduce the costs of inputs.
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